A majority of Raleigh’s Passenger Rail Task Force has endorsed a combination of two routes for the proposed light rail system downtown.
The proposed path combines two routes suggested by the Triangle Transit Authority, making it more accessible for state workers and covering more of the downtown area.
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According to a memorandum submitted to the city manager, the hybrid route “was not previously considered or studied by the Triangle Transit Authority.” Task force members presented the proposal to councilors Tuesday.
The route would run along West Morgan Street to the proposed Union Square site downtown, then turn north on North Wilmington Street and combine at West Peace Street, where it would join the rail corridor running north.
The southbound section would run down Salisbury Street, turn west along Hillsborough Street, then turn south and west on North Harrington Street and run back down West Morgan Street.
“We believe that this route through downtown Raleigh will best serve Raleigh’s citizens in terms of both ridership and economic development potential,” said Task Force Co-Chair Will Allen.
According to the memo, city staff’s analysis of the route proposed by the task force found it would “cost more, will operate less efficiently, has potentially greater historic property impacts, and may not generate sufficiently higher ridership to warrant further consideration.”
The Triangle Transit Authority, along with city staff and a single member of the task force, endorsed a different route that runs down West Morgan Street and North Harrington Street.
Mayor Charles Meeker said staff favored this route “in part because it has the potential for more development around the tracks there as opposed to the state complex, where there already is some development.”
The Passenger Rail Task Force said they would endorse the staff-approved route if their hybrid version was considered “infeasible.”
A majority of task force members were concerned that the Harrington Street station, which is a part of the TTA-suggested plan, would block access to the state government complex due to the “barrier effect” created by the high-volume one-way Dawson and McDowell streets, the memo states.
The downtown section of the route endorsed by TTA and city staff is projected to cost $265 million, while the section proposed by the Task Force is estimated to cost between $330 and $350 million. The cost for the Task Force-proposed section has not yet been officially determined.
Allen said the task force felt that “the route needs to be closer to the business district” in order to increase ridership and provide better economic opportunities.
“We want it to be as close to the downtown as it can be,” Allen said.
A workshop and public hearing are scheduled for July 25.